Home > Uncategorized > Upbeat Article on Virtual Learning Overlooks Several Obstacles that MUST Be Addressed for it to Work Universally

Upbeat Article on Virtual Learning Overlooks Several Obstacles that MUST Be Addressed for it to Work Universally

October 23, 2020

Freelance writer Amanda Woytus’ JSTOR upbeat post, “Does Virtual Learning Work for Every Student?“, overlooks several elements of virtual learning that are very problematic. That’s too bad because many of the ideas she presents could be applied universally if the gaping holes in her analysis were addressed. But by overlooking them, she ends up with an article that reads like it was written by a shill for technology corporations.

Roughly half of Ms. Woytus’ generally favorable analysis focuses on the benefits of the flipped classroom, whose efficacy is generally supported by research but whose applications are largely at the secondary or post-secondary level. Ms. Woytus also bases some of her analysis on the Calvert School, a 231 student private secondary school in Baltimore, MD. Finally, much of Ms. Woytus’ analysis is based on mathematics, a course that lends itself to the hierarchical scaffolding that virtual learning does best. By basing her analysis on these three elements, Ms. Woytus misses four of virtual learning’s gaping holes: teaching primary students; teaching subjects that are not hierarchical but rely primarily on interactions with other students; reaching children who are unfamiliar with technology; and reaching children who are unable to get technology.

I am learning from the experience of tutoring my 8-year old grandson in mathematics that it is imperative that the teacher be able to look over the shoulder at the work of children as they develop their basic skills. There are ways this could be accomplished, but the software being used by the schools needs to bake this kind of instruction in.

Mathematics, science, grammar, and other hierarchical content is easy to convert to virtual learning… but the facilitated discussions that result from a master teacher’s analysis of a poem, a piece of music, or a thoughtful video or movie cannot be easily replicated on line, especially if “efficiency” is the ultimate goal and, as Ms. Woytus suggests, standardized test scores are the ultimate metric. Without the opportunity to engage in discussion the learning opportunities are greatly diminished.

The inability of students to use technology easily is related to the students’ access to technology, and several posts on this blog and several articles in multiple national publications decry the lack of access to technology among rural students and poor urban students. This issue of inequity is completely by-passed in this article. I believe it should be mentioned in ANY assessment of the universal use of technology since it is an obstacle that CAN be surmounted IF funding for broadband access and computer hardware and software was a national priority.

As noted above and in some posts on this blog, the flipped classroom has promise and hierarchical content can be delivered very effectively online. Their promise of remote learning as universal means of instruction, though, can only be realized if the inherent obstacles mentioned above are addressed.

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